Ronald Gaylor '62

I left for college in 1955 and I was sitting in a rocking chair in the living room of the President of Mission House College. I was minding my own business. It was the President's Tea for new Freshmen. I was nervous and shy. I felt out of place. 300 miles from home and I knew no one. A cute girl sat on the floor beside my chair. She asked me my name and where I was from.

I'm the Gaylor boy who wears glasses and is going to be a minister. I said. "I'm from Mulberry, Indiana."

She said she was from a suburb of Chicago and had no idea where Mulberry was. She was curious and I was nervous. "How many people live in this Mulberry? How big is your family?"

"There are ten of us altogether, four brothers and three sisters." She couldn't believe that I knew most everyone in the town. Even more surprising to her was that my graduating class only had 14 in it and 12 of us went to school together all 12 years.

I was afraid to admit to her that I had a crush on every one of the girls in my class at one time or another in the 12 years. That would have violated my commitment to be a minister. I wasn't supposed to have time to think about girls. Her laughter increased when I told her our school nickname was the Berries.

I told her that we thought we had a chance to win the state basketball tournament the year that my older brother, John, was a senior. His team was probably Mulberry's best. We lost to a big school by one point in the Sectional.

"How did you know all those people?" Mostly through the paper route I delivered for 7 years. More laughter, more questions and with that I became a risk-taker not quite like my brother. Little did I realize it then but that evening and that girl opened a door to a journey that would lead me to far away places and a longing for the simple, innocent life of my childhood.

The next day we had a picnic and she came by where I was eating and called me “Mulberry." At the Homecoming talent show a sophomore shouted that Mulberry had something. I couldn't believe that I could get up in front of all those strange people. And then out of my mouth came, "of course, all of you know I'm from Mulberry, Indiana and tonight I would like to recite a poem from my favorite Indiana poet, James Whitcom Riley. And I proceeded to recite, "When the Frost in on the Punkin'" learned in high school speech class. It quieted the crowd and in the end it brought applause. During my college years my name was “Mulberry" to everyone, even Professors. I was so identified with the town that I took pictures with my sister's camera from Pop Stairs' airplane and showed them for proof to everyone that such a place really existed. I had expanded my identity from a Gaylor boy to "Mulberry."

I am forever indebted to Barb Otte for opening the door to my adventure at Lakeland. There are so many students and faculty that I appreciate but especially: Gene Thieleke, Sarge Liepert, Wayne Stroessner, Dick Wilterdink, Tom Kiekhaver, Bob Wagner, Ken Neuman and Cal Shaub,and later on Wayne Schupbach, Ken Dix, Barbara Schook, and Bonnie Walvoord for helping me through a tragic and traumatic experience. I have spent my career serving “throwaway" children and families in institutions and communities in North and South Dakota, Alaska, Appalachia, Southern Indiana, Minnesota, and Colorado. I am sorry that I will not be able to attend this historic occasion due to poor health. I wish I could have revisited the place and the memories of people that so long ago helped define my character.


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